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Shinn review: Pops concert worth the heat

One thing can definitely be said of the “Singing with Livingstone and Friends” pops concert Saturday night.
It was HOT.
The packed Varick Auditorium was sweltering. The air conditioning couldn’t keep up with the day’s warm weather and the crowded venue.
It didn’t take long for the musicians to shed their tuxedo jackets. Even Maestro David Hagy, dressed in white tie and tails, removed his jacket after the first selection. The audience resorted to using their programs for fans. I didn’t see anyone faint from the heat, but they certainly could have.
But the music was worth the uncomfortable conditions.
The Livingstone College Choir ó a real treasure ó accompanied the Salisbury Symphony in the opening number, the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Beethoven.
This joyful piece set the evening’s celebratory tone.
The two groups then combined forces for “Polovtsian Dances” from “Prince Igor” by Alexander Borodin. The melody from this piece was the basis for “Strangers in Paradise,” which was heard in the second set.
Again, the choir shone.
Freshman Le’Sondra Brown was called upon four days before the concert to substitute for Kimberly M. Butler in “Summertime.”
Given the soaring temperatures inside the auditorium, the piece was indeed appropriate, Maestro David Hagy noted.
It’s hard to imagine a singer who would’ve done a better job than Brown. Her young voice was magnificent. She slurred in all the right places and delighted the crowd.
Her poise and composure belied her youth, and the plaintive wail with which she ended the song brought the crowd to its feet.
We can say we knew her when, Hagy noted.
The remainder of the first half featured “friends” of the symphony ó community members who had volunteered to sing.
The first of those was baritone Michael Weddington, who sang “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. The piece is better suited for a tenor voice, but Weddington did an admirable job with the octave jumps and long notes.
When Weddington finished singing, he shook hands with the maestro and towered over him, although Hagy was standing on the conductor’s platform.
Tenor Neal Wilkinson was next with “Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha.” He got off pitch just a bit, then got right back on track.
Soprano Wandalaine Berry-Burch concluded the program’s first half with “Believe in Yourself,” from “The Wiz.”
Her big soprano voice ó and the piece itself ó was reminiscent of the Mother Superior in “Climb Every Mountain” from “Sound of Music.”
“Believe in yourself, as I believe in you,” Berry-Burch sang.
Craig Estep and Teresa Moore-Mitchell kicked off the second half of the program with “Strangers in Paradise” from “Kismet.” The two set a perfect mood with this romantic duet from the 1950s.
Estep followed with “Anthem” from “Chess,” then Moore-Mitchell teamed with the Livingstone choir for “My Man’s Gone Now,” from “Porgy and Bess.”
Moore-Mitchell and Estep took the stage a second time together, singing, “Brindisi” from “La Traviata.”
Both were in fine form throughout the evening.
The nearly 180 members of the All-County Fifth Grade Honors Chorus had been patiently waiting in the balcony all evening. They made their entrance to the stage to “March of the Siamese Children” from “The King and I.”
Clever!
The students sang a medley from “High School Musical,” accompanied by members of the Salisbury Youth Orchestra.
In an unusual twist to the evening, Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins, Catawba President Robert Knott and Robert Keeney, a vice president with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College sang “Fugue for Tinhorns” from “Guys and Dolls.”
In this selection, the trio sang about who had the best racehorse. They each held placards with a racehorse on the front, but then turned them around to reveal each school mascot on the other side.
Every time Knott flipped his sign, a roar went up from the Catawba fans present.
Their good-natured performance brought down the house.
“You will never see nor hear that again,” Hagy said as the men left the stage. “That’s a shame because they sang pretty well.”
For the finale, all of the vocalists ó including a surprise appearance by the Catawba Singers ó joined their voices for “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel.”
We happened to be sitting on the right side of the auditorium, and we were surrounded by the Catawba students on both sides of the aisle.
This gave you the feeling that you were right in the middle of the choirs, and it was a thrilling way to end a fun evening.
Now could somebody please crank up the air conditioning? Whew!

Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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